On this page, we have compiled a list of common questions asked by tenants involved in Security Deposit disputes with their landlords. For a complete list of statutes, visit the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act.
Questions Related To Your Landlord
After moving out, what is the timeframe for the landlord to return the security deposit?
In Florida, the timeframe for the return of a security deposit is regulated by Fla. Stat. s. 83.49(3). According to this statute, landlords have specific deadlines to follow. After the tenant's known move-out date, the landlord has a minimum of 30 days to inform the tenant whether they intend to make a claim on the security deposit. If the landlord does not plan to impose a claim, they have 15 days to return the security deposit in full. It's important to note that these timelines apply regardless of any lease provisions stating otherwise.
If there is still no response from the landlord, we move forward with the next step, which involves taking approximately 2 weeks to draft your lawsuit for your approval. Once approved, we file the lawsuit. The first court date is typically scheduled approximately 45-90 days after the filing date. It is important to note that the actual timeline can be affected by various factors, including the completion of your tasks, our workload, and the court's schedule.
We strive to expedite the process as much as possible, but it is essential to understand that the specific timeframe can vary based on individual circumstances. Rest assured, our team will work diligently to navigate the process efficiently while keeping you informed of any significant developments along the way.
Why won't my landlord return my security deposit?
The reasons for landlords not returning security deposits can vary. In some cases, landlords may only return the deposit once a tenant takes legal action to enforce its return. Other landlords may make financial or business decisions that lead them to withhold the deposit or shift the responsibility of property turnover onto the tenant. Unfortunately, some landlords may act out of greed. Additionally, there are situations where the landlord may not have a legal obligation to return the security deposit.
What recourse do I have if the landlord wrongfully withholds the security deposit?
If the landlord wrongfully withholds the security deposit, you have options for recourse. Firstly, it is recommended to attempt to resolve the dispute through pre-litigation means. If these attempts do not lead to a satisfactory outcome, you have the choice to either walk away or pursue legal action by filing a lawsuit against your landlord.
What documentation or evidence should I gather to protect myself?
To protect yourself and strengthen your case in the event of a dispute over the security deposit, it is important to gather and preserve relevant documentation and evidence. This may include:
- A copy of the lease agreement;
- Receipts or proof of payment for the security deposit;
- Move-in and move-out inspection reports or photographs;
- Any written communication with the landlord regarding the deposit;
- Proof of compliance with any requirements outlined in the lease agreement;
- Records of any repairs or maintenance requests made during your tenancy;
- Having comprehensive documentation can help support your claim and demonstrate the condition of the property at the time of move-out.
I have received a notice of claim on my deposit, can I dispute the landlord's deductions from the security deposit?
Yes, you MUST dispute any deductions made by the landlord from your security deposit under Fla. Stat. s. 83.49(3). If you believe the deductions are unfair or unjustified, it is crucial to communicate your objections to the landlord in writing. To ensure the receipt of your objection, send it through a method that provides confirmation of delivery. Additionally, it is important to share a copy of your objection with your attorney. They can provide guidance and assist you in navigating the dispute resolution process effectively.
What should I do if the landlord fails to return the security deposit within the required timeframe? Am I permitted to ask for the return of my deposit?
If the landlord fails to return the security deposit within the required timeframe, it is important to take steps to assert your rights. Firstly, once the deadline has passed (by a couple of weeks), it is recommended to communicate with your landlord in writing to remind them of their legal obligations and request the return of the deposit. This is especially important in accordance with Fla. Stat. s. 83.49, which encourages informal resolution attempts between landlords and tenants. Be sure to keep copies of all written communications for future reference. If the landlord continues to unlawfully withhold the deposit, seeking assistance from a qualified attorney may be necessary to further protect your rights and explore legal remedies available to you.
Can the landlord withhold the security deposit for damages that were pre-existing or not caused by me?
Generally, landlords should not withhold the security deposit for damages that were pre-existing or not caused by the tenant. To strengthen your position, it is essential to document the condition of the property at the time of move-in, preferably through a move-in inspection report or photographs. Additionally, it is important for tenants to communicate in writing with the landlord regarding needed repairs and the condition of the premises. These written communications can serve as evidence to protect tenants' rights. Our firm frequently defends against such claims, often relying on move-in condition reports and documented repair requests to support our client's cases.
Given that I do not have pictures or videos of the premises upon moving out, am I still able to retain the attorney's services?
Yes, absolutely! We are eager to assist you, even if you don't have pictures or videos of the premises. While photographic evidence can be beneficial, it is not the sole form of evidence that can support your case. We understand the challenges that may arise from a potential lack of evidence, which is why we strategically obtain admissions from your landlord during the pre-litigation stage. These admissions can strengthen your case and help overcome any evidentiary hurdles. Additionally, we also gather other relevant documents and information to build a strong argument in your favor. Rest assured, our team is well-equipped to handle your case effectively, even without photographic evidence.
If the landlord fails to return the security deposit within thirty (30) days, do I automatically win my security deposit case?
Unfortunately, no, simply because the landlord fails to return the security deposit within the thirty (30) day timeframe does not automatically guarantee a victory in your security deposit case. Our attorneys want to provide you with accurate information regarding the process. It is important to note that while the failure to comply with the deadline can be a favorable factor for the tenant, it does not guarantee a win in every instance.
To maximize the chances of a successful outcome, we advise tenants to take specific steps. It is crucial to provide a forwarding address to the landlord ideally before moving out. Additionally, ensuring that the rental property is left in a reasonable condition is essential. Failure to do so may give the landlord a valid reason to countersue the tenant for any resulting damages. Evaluating the entire case and considering all relevant factors is crucial before pursuing legal action against the landlord.
We understand the importance of a comprehensive assessment to provide you with the best guidance. Rest assured, our attorneys will evaluate your specific situation, advise you accordingly, and work diligently to build a strong case on your behalf.
Questions Related to Our Processes & Representation
How long does the process take?
The duration of the process depends on the service you choose. Most tenants prefer the patient-no-out-of-pocket-money solution, but it is not a quick process. The timeline for the process relies on a few factors such as our caseloads, the courts' caseloads, and our procedures that encourage efficiency. As we provide the most affordable service to tenants, we need to consider all financial aspects to make it a profitable endeavor. Therefore, this option requires patience.
Ideally, once we receive all your interview answers and documents, it usually takes about two weeks to draft your first demand letter. After that, we allow a period of thirty days for the landlord to respond. If there is no response, we proceed with drafting a second demand letter, which takes an additional week. Once you approve, we send out the demand letters and wait for another thirty days to allow for a resolution.
What happens after I complete my interview and submit my documents to you?
Once you have completed your interview and submitted all your documents, our team, based on our current case loads, takes prompt action to review your case thoroughly. One of our experienced attorneys will carefully assess the details of your situation and determine the recommended course of action.
During the case review, the attorney will provide guidance on the minimum settlement amount that your case should aim for, considering the specific risks and circumstances surrounding it. To proceed further, we will share a minimum settlement authority and retainer agreement with you, outlining the proposed terms.
Upon receiving your signed documents, we will initiate pre-suit attempts to recover your security deposit. After exhausting all pre-suit attempts to resolve your case, we will send you a lawsuit retainer agreement. If you decide to proceed, once signed, we will commence drafting the lawsuit against your landlord, preparing all necessary legal documentation for filing with the court after receiving your approval.
Throughout the process, our team remains committed to diligently managing your case, keeping you informed at every step, and working towards achieving the best possible outcome for you. Rest assured that we prioritize your case with utmost care and dedication, aiming to resolve it efficiently and effectively.
How long will it take for you to evaluate my case after I complete my interview and submit my documents?
We usually require 3-21 days to evaluate a security deposit case, although the time frame may vary based on our current workload. It's crucial to bear in mind that eviction defense cases take priority due to their time-sensitive nature. We prioritize such cases to ensure timely responses because tenants facing eviction are dealing with significant consequences. We want to make sure that we provide prompt evaluations, and our team is dedicated to thoroughly assessing the strength of your claim and guiding you through the next steps of the process. Please rest assured that we understand the urgency of resolving your case and will make every effort to do so promptly.
How does your law firm get paid?
Our preference is to go after the landlord for our payment. Many times we are entitled to payment directly from the landlord. However, sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we are unable to acquire attorney's fees from the landlord. If this occurs, we share in the monies we recover from the landlord. This happens in about only 5-10% of our cases. Additionally, if we negotiate a monetary recovery outside of a return of your security deposit(s) on your behalf, we share in that recovery, as allowed by law.
If I decide to go to court, can I be on the hook for the landlord's attorney's fees?
Yes, we understand the concern about potentially being responsible for the landlord's attorney's fees. However, our firm follows an extensive pre-lawsuit process to avoid unnecessary court involvement. Our pre-litigation process, while it may take some additional time, is specifically designed to increase the likelihood of a successful return of your security deposit. One of the key benefits of this process is that it significantly reduces the risk of our clients having to pay the landlord's attorney's fees.
We understand the importance of thorough preparation and strategic evidence-gathering. By investing time and effort into building a strong case before considering legal action, we aim to achieve a favorable outcome while minimizing potential risks for our clients. This approach not only increases the chances of securing the return of your security deposit but also protects you from any unnecessary financial burdens associated with the landlord's attorney's fees. Rest assured, our priority is to advocate for your best interests throughout the process.
What happens if the landlord contacts me after I retain you?
If the landlord contacts you after you have retained our services, it is crucial to contact us immediately. There are specific stages in the process where accepting the return of the security deposit directly from the landlord could potentially expose you to liability for the landlord's attorney's fees. To protect your interests, it is important that all settlement communications between you and the landlord are shared with us once we have been retained. By keeping us informed, we can provide guidance, review the terms of any proposed settlements, and ensure that your rights and financial well-being are safeguarded throughout the process.
What happens after I complete my interview and submit my documents to you?
Once we have received all your interview answers and documents, we prioritize your case for review by one of our attorneys. The attorney will carefully evaluate the details of your case and determine the recommended course of action. You will be promptly informed whether your case should proceed further or not.
During the case review, the attorney will also provide guidance on the minimum settlement amount that your case should aim for in court. This suggested minimum amount takes into account the specific risks and circumstances surrounding your case. To proceed, we will share a minimum settlement authority and retainer agreement with you, which outlines the proposed terms.
Upon receiving your signed documents, we will proceed with drafting the lawsuit against your landlord. This includes preparing all necessary legal documentation, which will be filed with the court once you have given your approval.
Rest assured, our team is committed to diligently managing your case, keeping you informed at every step, and working towards achieving the best possible outcome for you.
How long will it take for you to evaluate my case after I complete my interview and submit my documents?
On average, it takes us between 3-12 days to complete the evaluation of a security deposit case. However, the exact timing may vary depending on our current caseload. It's important to note that cases involving eviction defense receive priority due to their time-sensitive nature. Tenants facing eviction are dealing with significant consequences, which is why we prioritize these cases to ensure timely responses.
Rest assured, we understand the urgency of resolving your case and will make every effort to evaluate it promptly. Our team is dedicated to providing thorough and effective evaluations to assess the strength of your claim and guide you through the next steps of the process.
What happens if we lose our court case at trial?
In the event that we do not prevail in your court case, it is possible for the prevailing party to request that the losing party pays their attorney's fees. To ensure we have all the relevant information to present the strongest case possible, it is important for you to provide us with all requested and relevant information, even if it is not explicitly requested.
We strongly encourage the settlement of cases whenever possible. Settling a case can lead to a quicker resolution and a fair outcome for all parties involved. This is why we seek settlement authority, as it allows us to negotiate on your behalf and pursue a swift and equitable settlement.
Our team is committed to navigating your case with the utmost professionalism and diligence. We will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for you, whether through settlement or in the courtroom.
Why do you ask for a minimum settlement authority?
We request a minimum settlement authority for several important reasons.
- Firstly, after your lawsuit is filed, the court will assign a pre-trial/mediation date. During this pre-trial phase, the court expects us to have settlement authority, which means we must have the reasonable ability to negotiate and settle for an amount less than what we initially claim is owed. This demonstrates our willingness to engage in meaningful settlement discussions.
- Secondly, presenting an ultimatum seeking only a full return of the security deposit can be viewed unfavorably by courts. It is important to approach settlement negotiations with a fair and reasonable mindset, showing our willingness to consider different outcomes and reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
- Thirdly, we understand that attending pretrial/mediation can be burdensome for tenants who prefer to save their vacation and personal time off or avoid the hassle of court proceedings. Therefore, many of our clients choose to allow us to attend pretrial alone on their behalf. It is crucial that we establish clear communication and alignment regarding the settlement authority to ensure we are advocating for your best interests.
- Lastly, based on our extensive experience, we have learned that new information may arise during pretrial that was previously unknown. Having the flexibility to make adjustments and adapt our approach in light of new information is essential to securing the most favorable outcome for you.
Rest assured, we are committed to effective representation and strategic decision-making throughout the settlement process. Our goal is to protect your interests and work towards achieving the best possible resolution in your case.
What happens after you sue my landlord for a return of my security deposit?
Once we file your lawsuit with the Court, the Court will assign a pre-trial date, typically scheduled within a range of 45 to 180 days. We will promptly inform you of the assigned date and ensure you are well-informed about the process.
Following the filing of the lawsuit, we will engage the services of a process server to formally serve your landlord with the lawsuit. In some cases, your landlord may choose to hire a lawyer who may work with us to explore the possibility of settling the case prior to the pre-trial. There are also instances where your landlord may directly contact us to discuss and potentially resolve the lawsuit.
If a settlement is reached during the pre-trial phase, the case will be successfully closed. However, if a settlement is not reached at or before the pre-trial, we will proceed to attend the pre-trial hearing and prepare for trial. In such cases, a trial date will be assigned, and we will diligently prepare your case for trial, presenting your arguments and evidence before the court.
Throughout this process, our team remains dedicated to protecting your rights and seeking a favorable outcome for the return of your security deposit. We will keep you informed at each stage, providing guidance and support as we navigate the legal proceedings.